Beijing reluctant to open only land route for trade between China and Pakistan due to COVID-19
Islamabad: Beijing has been reluctant to open the only land route for trade activities between China and Pakistan due to the COVID-19 pandemic despite the agreement between two governments to allow trade through the Khunjerab border.
China had agreed to open the Khunjerab border for trade by May 1, 2021. It was earlier shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, China has failed to implement the agreement, Pakistan Today reported.
"We have been informed that China may allow goods cross the border by July 10, 2021, but we are still uncertain about the development," said Javed Hussain, head of Gilgit Baltistan Exporters, Importers Association, who had held a meeting with Chinese officials at Ministry of Commerce here in Islamabad on June 30.
According to him, it was agreed in the meeting that the border would be opened on July 3, but that date also passed without any development. "Now we are given another date (July 10, 2021)," he said.
"Unfortunately the border would be opened for only imports as Pakistani goods are not allowed to be exported to China through this route. As per Chinese officials, only cargo containers would cross the border leaving the goods near the border from where the same would be lifted by Pakistani importers," he said while replying to a query.
"We do not see any chance of export to China via the land route in near future. The Chinese side is very cautious about the Corona pandemic," the businessman said.
At 5,000 metres above sea level, Khunjerab Pass in Pakistan occupied Kashmir is a major trade route between China and Pakistan, and an important gateway to South Asia and Europe.
China mainly imports textiles, agricultural products and daily commodities, and exports plants and herbs.
Earlier, Islamabad had asked China to reopen the border to facilitate cross-border trade and people-to-people exchanges.
In a letter sent to the Embassy of China in Pakistan, Pakistan foreign ministry had stated that the border was closed on December 1, 2019 as per schedule due to the winter season, while its opening on April 1, 2020 was postponed due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"To support the lives and livelihood of the local population on both sides of the border, it is imperative that regular cross-border trade and P2P exchanges may be resumed. Therefore, the border may be opened from April 1," the ministry stated. "The esteemed embassy is requested to take up the matter with relevant quarters to open the border on the said date for smooth and regular cross-border movement."
It may be recalled here that China had earlier agreed to open the Khunjerab border for trade but with stiff conditions in view of the COVID-19 situation.
Under the conditions set by the Chinese government, Pakistani exporters and importers would not be allowed to enter China and would instead load and unload goods on Pakistan's side of the border for inspection and sterilisation, reported Pakistan Today.
It was agreed that Chinese exporters would leave the goods on a specific location of Pakistan's side of the border from where importers may receive them after following the SOPs. Similarly, exporters would also leave their goods at the same location which buyers from China would receive after completion of the same process on their side of the border.
As per documents available with Pakistan Today Profit, personnel and the vehicles of both parties were directed to work in different time frames to avoid direct contact.
In this regard, loading and unloading, dropping and hanging up the trailer are to be done separately when the cargo inspection channel is opened.
However, the border has remained closed for bilateral trade despite assurances from both countries. (ANI)